Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

I, the illustrious and often confused Madeline Doering, have been under the Southern Skies now for over a month – a month and one week, to be exact – and by golly it’s all starting to come together. While living with a host family that speaks 0 English has been prodigious para mis habilidades lingüísticas, in a world of Spanish, I find myself talking to myself in increasingly frequent doses – and whether that’s good or weird (it’s weird, I  know), at least I understand what I’m saying – sometimes with a pretty snazzy Spanish accent even. Here are a few choice mutterings:

  • Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

    Seriously, does no one blow their nose ever down here?
    I’ve noticed that where we typically compost and recycle as a luxury, and while widespread in Colorado, much of the United States remains criminally in the dark about the basic necessities regarding earth-friendliness and la Pachamama.don't pick flowers Here in Ecuador the Green Campaign is much stronger and much more of a habit – out of necessity rather than choice. There is always an Organicó next to the Basura, signs stating “sólo necesita un poco!” in the bathrooms (where sometimes you must supply your own paper), and no such thing as air conditioning or central heat. giant leaf 2So maybe it should come as no shock that something so wasteful as kleenex quite literally doesn’t exist – I’ve looked in stores, there isn’t any. But, I HAVEN’T SEEN ANYONE EVEN SNEEZE. What is the secret to this madness? And how can I too learn the ways?

 

 

 

 

  • I am not a cat, nor will I be eating one as a hamburger!

    Hamburgesas del Gato. WHAT? I don’t know what you all do here in Costaguatamexi-Ecuador, but back in America we do not eat cats.
    When we passed the Hamburguesas del Gato while going to “the bank” (I’ve learned “the bank” actually translates to 3+ hours of errands, one does not simply go to the bank) and I told my host sister Rosita that in no uncertain terms would I be eating a cat, she descended into a pile of giggles. No Maddie, gatos are people with blue or green eyes, sheesh. It’s basically hamburgers in the style of Europeans/Americans. Ridiculous. Hey, you people eat cuy (guinea pigs) down here, cats are just one step up. Meow.

  • Lets kiss then hug then kiss again. Then let’s do it again in 10 minutes when I leave.

    Saludos son muy importante around here. A mere, “What’s up?” or, the epitome of cool – the nod – will not suffice. I think when he saw my reaction, my Professor, Ismael, took pity and let me know it wasn’t a greeting requirement to kiss everyone, but hey, I’m lucky it’s not the double kiss in Spain or the – uck – triple kiss in France. ARMS LENGTH DISTANCE AT ALL TIMES, PEOPLE. Gracias.
    At this point, I’ve kissed and been kissed by more people than I care to ever admit. Ever.

  • No, I do not want mayonnaise on my carrots or my salad or my peas, why thank you. Actually, just keep the peas entirely.

    One does not simply put mayonnaise on everything! Especially vegetables! (yes potato salad, blah, blah, yuck) They make a big deal about everything being super natural around here – far fresher and more natural than in los Estados Unidos, por supuesto – but isn’t that slightly ruined WHEN YOU PUT GLOBS OF SLOPPY, GLOOPY MAYONNAISE ON TOP??????????????????? And peas. I actually just don’t like peas. I’m sure they’re very fresh and natural, though.

    El Mercado

    El Mercado

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  • I’m going to eat it on one of these floors imminently, I just know it.

    Every surface is smooth and shiny – they really know their right angles down here. But for those of us that can, at times, trip over their own feet, this can portend imminent catastrophe. Skirt over head. It’s going to happen.

  • Am I the only person here who doesn’t know anything about soccer?

    Yes? Alrighty then.

  • In the event of a Godzilla attack, please proceed calmly and orderly to the nearest park.
    It will never find me in the park! - Actually, it's an artist's depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.

    It will never find me in the park! – Actually, it’s an artist’s depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.


    It’s the harbinger of DOOOOOOOOOOOM!
    Yeah, I don’t know.

Well. Perhaps talking to myself is not entirely healthy for my sanity. But I’m amused.

What it all boils down to, mis chicos, is it’s always an adventure and there is always something to laugh at if you just look. Maybe in the darkest times you’ll have to squint your eyes a bit – wipe away a few tears even – but there’s a silver lining, there really is. Buen viaje mis amigos!

colorful selfie

- Madeline Doering, DUSA Blogger

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Doing scary things on purpose

The University of York is surrounded by city walls that will make for excellent walks during the day.

The realization that I’ll be going to study abroad at the University of York in England for an entire year come mid-September still hasn’t quite sunk in. Most of my prep work is done, but every now and then the gravity of an exchange year starts to hit me.

There are a couple of questions that have been running through my head regarding this whole thing, and I thought I’d answer myself here.

Aren’t you scared to go abroad for a whole year?

Of course I am. I’m equal parts terrified and jumping-up-and-down excited about the whole thing. I love to travel and would like to believe I do so quite well, but Colorado is my home and it will be very hard to only spend about six weeks in my home over the next year.

Won’t you miss your friends? Will they even be your friends when you get back?

Being who I am-a person who loves fiercely, hates rejection, and has lost several very close friends over the years-this is a real worry for me. But like always, the logical and emotional parts of my brain are messy housemates. Emotional me is crying that I’ll have an amazing time abroad and then come back with no friends. Logical me is remembering that one of my dearest friends from high school lives a couple of thousand miles away from me and yet he’s still my best friend. We don’t get to talk to each other near as often as we would like, but when you have a friendship as genuine and as sweet as that, it’s not easily broken. And I think I can say the same for my friends here at DU. We won’t get to talk nearly as often as we do now living together and seeing each other every day. But they are special enough to me that I won’t just drop them, and I know they won’t do that to me either.

You’ll be doing an awful lot of travelling alone. Doesn’t that scare you?

It absolutely does! But after spending a few weeks way outside my comfort zone in southern Kenya, I learned that big risks pay off  massive dividends. The payoff doesn’t negate any of the rough parts in the middle-loneliness, getting sick, missing home, wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake in a particularly dark moment. I felt all of those things in Kenya. But it was and remains a trip I hold close to my heart. And I’m ready for the bits where I travel alone. I won’t be completely alone, as I’ll be meeting up with friends in pretty much every place that I go to.  Taking intentional time alone and journaling and actually going and doing things (museums, hikes, that sort of thing) by myself help me to grow content with my own company and to get to know my own head. Those are vitally important, as again, I’m the one who has to live with that stuff on a daily basis.

The bottom line is that come fall, I will be embarking on a crazy scary year. But I’m doing it on purpose. Doing scary stuff on purpose is pretty good for you, I think. Keeps a girl on her toes.

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA blogger

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The Wall

You head east.

Yep, you break that sacred, unspoken Coloradoan rule and turn your back on the mountains. They’ll forgive you- eventually. You head past the supposedly haunted Mary Reed and the ever illustrious UHall, dash across University Blvd with the sorority sistahs and assorted other Greek and (non-Greek)-life bros making their trek home to Josephine St., and scurry the final block. Inside, you blow on your frost-tinged fingertips; the bright sunshine, while irritatingly blinding, not quite up to doing battle with the potent partnership of a bracing November air and breeze whose bite is slightly more than playful. You’ve almost made it.

So down the stairs you go.

And there it is. In the slight maze that is the I- house, sequestered in the basement – though almost every DU student will make the pilgrimage- is The Wall.

Have you not seen The Wall? Well what are you waiting for?! An invitation? An introduction? Please.

Covered in paper, countries you forgot existed alongside those you’ve always dreamed of visiting are represented. It stands, a memorial to adventure – both those already had and those yet to come. Oh holy Hades, how are you going to choose?

One could throw darts. One could meticulously read every minute detail on every sheet, do extra research, and draft elaborate pro/con pie graphs. One might be better off with the darts. You could turn to the Travel Channel and announce to your friends you will be traveling to whatever country first appears – only to have a show about alligator rastlin’ in the Florida Everglades helpfully and gracefully segue from commercial. Perhaps not. If only you could study abroad everywhere at once – but that might defeat the purpose.

If like me you’ve dreamed of the Southern hemisphere stars twinkling above you, finding Mt. Olympus, and kissing the Blarney stone, you’re about to find yourself at a bit of a crossroads. For me, the best decision is the one that has a little bit of fate thrown in. I managed to narrow down my choices to two. By weeding out places I would have other opportunities to visit and coming to the conclusion that what I was looking for was A Different study abroad experience, my dilemma became centered around Germany and Ecuador. But from there I couldn’t choose. So I submitted both applications not in any particular order, and waited for the study abroad office’s decision. Ecuador, here I am.

Maddie, at a Crossroads

Maddie, at a Crossroads

We easily forget that at DU the question is not usually if you are study abroad, but where. I was sitting in class when I was struck by the rather late-coming realization that the 30 people surrounding me would none be in the U.S. come fall. I will have friends in Bolivia, Mongolia, South Africa, China, Belgium, and more. Whatever your decision and however you choose to make it, what will be, will be. Few have returned with anything but silly grins splitting their faces, secret adventures in their hearts, and a vow to go again.

And now I stand in the 2nd highest capital city in the world, the equator just to my north, and 4 ½ months between me and Denver, Colorado. All those inspirational travel posters make so much sense now.

Adventure awaits! Westward (or Southward) ‘Ho! Hasta la vista, baybay!

Maddie Doering, DUSA blogger

Quito, Ecuador – MSID Ecuador

 

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Why I Chose French

This post is super exciting for me, as it is my first post that I have with a vlogging component!

It was super fun making this video, and while I still love to write and blog, I am hoping to have more video and other forms of media in my blog posts in the future. :) Enjoy this video!
Thanks for reading/watching!
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I am NOT a Mzungu

Hamjambo!

Before I came to East Africa, I would have greeted you with “Jambo!” like in Mean Girls.  Now I know better – Jambo is a tourist greeting and is not proper Kiswahili.  The proper way is to say “Hujambo”, to which you respond “Sijambo”.  Or if you are greeting multiple people at once, like now, you use “Hamjambo”.  The more you know!

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The view from the beach only a 5 minute walk from where I live

So I’ve been living in Zanzibar for some time now, and it is finally starting to sink in that I’m really here and will be here for the next four months.  When it really sunk in though, was when I saw the stars.  The night sky in Zanzibar is absolutely stunning and has almost brought me to tears on more than one occasion.  I am living in a very dark part of the world, away from a lot of development, so the number of stars I can see is incredible since there’s very little light pollution.  And being in the southern hemisphere, the night sky looks different than it does at home.  When I finally had time to just look at the stars, that was when it really hit me that I’m actually in Africa and this beautiful island is mine to explore for four whole months.

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The moon (look really hard!  Just left of the palm) in Paje

Since I arrived here my days have been packed with intensive Kiswahili instruction (4 hours a day plus homework!), special lectures about the culture and expectations of the program, and water time.  After a few days in Stone Town, the main town on the west side of Zanzibar, we headed to Paje (pronounced pah-jay), a resort village on the east side of the island.  This was when I realized how small Zanzibar actually is – the drive from one side to another only took 45 minutes.  The beach at Paje is gorgeous and the tides are incredible.  Low tide can have you walking out over a mile until you see the ocean, and at night, you can see bio luminescent plankton washed up during low tide.

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These photos were taken 6 hours apart at high and low tide

While in Paje, we were assigned to visit a local village, about a five minute walk from our hotel, and my group’s personal assignment was to learn about local employment opportunities the locals have.  Using as much of the Kiswahili we had learned as possible, we walked right up to people and started asking.  One conversation we had really made me rethink the entire tourism industry.  We talked to a man not much older than us who worked for an excursion company (kitesurfing is very popular in Paje), and while he loves having tourists come and spend money, he isn’t the biggest fan of the new all-inclusive resorts that have been popping up on the island lately.  These resorts make their money by keeping guests at the resort.  The guests almost never leave and spend money in the community, and business has gone down in the past few years in the island.  He also made a good point about visitors going back home saying that they went to Zanzibar but they never talked to the locals or learned about the culture or did anything but stay at their hotel so did they really see Zanzibar?  All I know is, I’m going to think twice about booking an all-inclusive vacation in the future.

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We were able to see the poorer side of Paje, just a few minutes walk from our hotel.  It’s incredible the stark difference between the resorts surrounding this village.

On our last day in Paje, we rose before the sun to leave our hotel at 5:30am (which is 11:30 usiku in Swahili time) to head to Kizimkazi, about a 20 minute drive north.  We arrived at the beach as the sun was rising and piled into two wooden boats so as not to harm the creatures we were following.  As we headed to deeper water, we were told to be ready to jump in the water at any second in case there was a sighting so we all got our fins, mask, and snorkel ready (and in my case, my GoPro camera as well).  We heard a “GO GO GO” and we rushed into the surprisingly warm water and I stuck my camera in front of me so I didn’t miss anything.  After the bubbles cleared, I saw some dark figures swimming below me, so I followed their path, and before I knew it, I was swimming less than twenty feet away from a pod of bottlenose dolphins!  It was incredible to get that close to a wild dolphin and they were so peaceful and strong and just beautiful.  I didn’t even know that it was possible to swim with wild dolphins – I thought it was just a Discovery Cove thing.  I took plenty of footage, which you can check out below!

This was absolutely incredible.  The dolphins weren’t afraid of us, they were just hanging out with some small humans watching.

I had a truly African experience a few days ago.  We had an assignment to take what’s called a daladala to different places in Zanzibar and our project was at some old Arabic ruins next to the ocean.  Those were interesting and all, but the really interesting thing was the daladala ride.  Daladalas are basically open-air buses you can take for 300/= (about $0.18) but they pack you in more than sardines, so good luck if you’re even the least bit claustrophobic.  But people are more than happy to move over to accommodate someone else so they don’t have to crouch on the ground.  We ended up sitting in each other’s laps (good thing there were four of us).  Deciding to study Kiswahili on the daladala was actually a good idea because many of the people on the daladala wanted to help us out, especially when we were asked to pay twice.  The kindness of the Zanzibaris is without end, and I’m grateful to each and every one that has helped me in my short time in Zanzibar so far, and I’m sure I will owe them big time by the end of my time here.

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This is a daladala
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The inside of the daladala.  This was not even close to how packed we were on the way to the ruins.

And lastly, feel such a sense of belonging to this town and my group of sixteen.  We are recognized walking on the streets of Stone Town and asked how our Kiswahili language class is going and if we’ve learned anything new since we last saw each other.  And one specific experience was when I was at the site of the ruins.  I finally learned how to tie my khanga (a single piece of fabric you tie around your waist and wear as a skirt), and when I walked up to the beach bar, one of the women working there told me “You tie your khanga just like a Zanzibari!” and that was the moment that I realized that I’m no longer a mzungu.

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The long yellow skirt I’m wearing is a khanga

My first few weeks here have already been unforgettable, and I’m really coming to understand the meaning of “experiential learning”, and not just having lectures.  Stone Town is beautiful and has so much history, which I will be posting updates about regularly.

As always, thanks for reading,

Baadaye! (until later)

Kim, DUSA Blogger

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Welcome to Wales

It’s officially one month until I leave for Bangor University for the fall semester!

I will be enrolled as a student taking a variety of classes ranging from basic Welsh to organizational behavior.

Before I delve more into my thoughts regarding my next big life adventure let me tell a bit about myself:

I am a third year Marketing major at the University of Denver in beautiful Colorado, where I am involved in both the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity. Originally from Northern California, I have always enjoyed traveling with my family across the US and Europe. I like to find adventure anywhere I find myself!

Something that is hard to do as a visitor or tourist to any locale is really immerse yourself within that culture. World cultures have always fascinated me because it is astounding how on one single planet so much cultures, histories, and stories can co-exist together! A semester abroad provides enough time to begin to understand and thrive in that cultures instead of just glancing at it while a tourist. Although my culture is noticeably the baseball, minivans, and apple pie all American, one unique cultural experience I had was that my family happened to be in London when Prince William married Catherine Middleton. I stood on the Pall Mall in front of Buckingham Palace waving a small British flag, belting “God Save the Queen” while cheering for Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the British Royal Family. I felt a part of the culture and yelling for the couple to kiss when they appeared on the balcony seemed the right thing to do. It was an amazing experience to be a part of something that is so distinctly a part of the British national identity.

Studying abroad was always a definite must and it was not an easy decision narrowing down even which part of the world I wanted to study in for a semester! When faced with the daunting question from the study abroad office of where could we imagine living for four months. Since I’ve always been an anglophile and being a champion of all things Britannia, I decided on Bangor University in Wales because it gave a different UK experience than the programs in the ever popular London or Glasgow. So then I got the official email telling me the great news.

With this news, I have been busily mentally preparing myself for the trip of a lifetime where I really get to become a member of a different culture and lifestyle.

Going out of state for college was a particular challenge but its set the stage for being more comfortable with leaving home for greater distances. The biggest challenge I will face is being alone in a strange place; California to Colorado was an interesting enough adjustment, so US to Wales will be even more confusing! Support from family and friends will help make the transition smoother as they are as excited to hear all about the experiences I have abroad! Every person I’ve ever talked to about their time living abroad has told me how the experience has changed them and altered their world perspective, and from my college adventures that joining and involving myself in as many things as possible will be the best things to expand my horizons.

My next post will be from Wales!Bangor-University-007

Until next time,

Emily S., DUSA blogger

 

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Up in the Air

I’ve been anticipating the customary semester abroad that the majority of University of Denver students take during fall of their junior year since before I even started college. Still, the fact that I would be living in Seville, Spain starting this September didn’t quite feel real even as I was picking programs and attending pre-departure sessions at our International House. The fact that my next semester will start with a plane ride to a different continent instead of a sweaty day of moving boxes into a new dorm never fails to make me feel like I’m at the top of a roller coaster before it drops: a little scared, a lot excited, and incapable to focus on anything but the certain but unknowable change waiting for me in my immediate future. As summer starts to disappear and I imagine myself abroad, I’ve realized that if I made a Venn diagram of the ‘scary’ and the ‘exciting’ parts of my upcoming semester, I would only be able to fill in that weird, sort-of oval shape in the middle. The only experiences that will be rewarding will also require me to step outside of my comfort zone. No one thing can be exclusively categorized as a ‘fear’ or a ‘hope’ or a ‘goal’ for my time in Spain because, really, they’re all connected to one another. Life, inconveniently, can’t always be separated out into neat lists, but I’ll try to detail the basic parts of study abroad that make me nervous-excited-anticipatory, and will end up making it all worthwhile.

Traveling

Once I get to Seville, I plan on taking advantage of the several side-trips included in my program, which I have heard are essential. These trips I am not worried about – rather, I’m quite looking forward to them. They come with guides and itineraries. The ones I am worried about are the ones I’m planning to take on my own. I am not travel-literate. The first time I traversed an airport on my own was mere months ago, and, even following the signs, I got lost once or twice. When you struggle to navigate a building, trying to figure out how to get around a new town full of foreign signs is sure to be an experience with a difficult learning curve.

Learning more navigational skills, beyond “the mountains are west,” (which, beyond Denver, is useless) is a definite goal for my time abroad. Up to this point, the only reason I arrive anywhere on time is Siri. The Maps app is my guide, faithfully held up to the steering wheel as I squint towards exit signs and try not to turn at the wrong one (rerouting is stressful). In an age where those who are directionally challenged are saved from natural selection by their iPhones, how will I survive without one in a completely alien land? I guess I should learn how to read a real map? Buy a guidebook? Right now I know I’ll have to at least plan my trips in advance – spontaneous travel may lead to spontaneous breakdowns (or kidnapping. I’ve seen Taken). While learning how to get around by myself makes me anxious, I look forward to becoming more independent and confident in my navigational skills. When I don’t have a guide (or Siri) to hold my hand, I will have to rely on my own capabilities to travel. Once I successfully explore one place, the next is sure to be easier. Besides, if I do struggle with getting around new places, something good is sure to come of it. Aren’t the people who get lost in foreign countries in movies the ones that always find the best pastry shops, anyway? Not that I want to plan on getting lost, but with my track record, I’m bound to eat plenty of delicious crepes by the time December’s over.

Though I've heard that Seville is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, I'll miss Colorado sights like this one at King Solomon Falls.

Though I’ve heard that Seville is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, I’ll miss Colorado sights like this one at King Solomon Falls.

Learning the language

While I’m hoping I’ll actually be able to carry on a coherent, awkward-pause-less conversation in Spanish by the time I return from Seville, I’m also dreading the actual process of attaining that comfort with a second language. Inevitably, before I reach that covetable level of semi-fluency, I will put my foot in my mouth and accidentally tell someone I want to eat their child or something. Not that I haven’t already embarrassed myself locally in my quest for bilingualism. Back in middle school, I may have made the mistake of ordering “polla” instead of “pollo” from a native Spanish-speaking waitress at a local Mexican restaurant. Once I got home and SpanishDict’d what I had actually asked for, my memories of the wait staff chuckling at me from behind the bar became seared into my memory with the clarity of belated embarrassment.

Despite its abject cringe-worthiness, that moment didn’t keep me from pursuing Spanish. As of last quarter I was able to make my way through two novels in Spanish and correctly translate some of the conversations between Mexican cartel members on Breaking Bad without reading the subtitles. Both of these accomplishments, though different in size, provided equal amounts of thrill – I can now make convincing death threats and talk about Emilia Pardo Bazán’s work in Spanish with similar dexterity. The promise of future achievements such as these makes the promise of future missteps worth it. I’m preparing for conversational awkwardness to become a daily reality come September, and my grammatical accidents will become useful lessons and hilarious memories (in a few years, surely – maybe by my forties).

Studying

One of the main reasons I chose Universidad Pablo de Olavide as my school when I applied for different programs was because of the classes they offered. Though the many other facets of study abroad may be initially distracting, my studies are the real reason I’m going to Spain. Which can really put on the pressure, considering I’m walking into an entirely new educational system. My GPA is precious to me as though it’s an extension of my reputation – I will go to great lengths to protect it (I have seriously wondered why they don’t have dedicated nap rooms in the library. I would probably live there if I could). Knowing beforehand that European universities are run differently than they are in the US has already caused me moments of worry, but I am comforted by the fact that my program has dedicated on-site advisors for abroad students. Still, I’m planning on a little stress and confusion before I understand my new routine. And my new university’s library? Well, let’s just say we’re sure to be seeing a lot of each other, if my syllabus’ reading lists are anything to go by.

Underneath the worry I have for my grades is an excitement to begin my classes. When I read the descriptions online for what I would be learning, I already know I will enjoy all the classes I plan to sign up for. The university provides options for both of my majors, though I’ll be focusing on Spanish because of the interesting variety of classes available that I just wouldn’t be able to take at DU. There’s something kind of nerdy but undeniable about the thrill I get looking through class schedules and book lists. Knowing that I’ll be learning about the culture and history of a country in theory while being able to experience the reality of it at the same time is certainly one of the biggest appeals of study abroad.

Even after trying to categorize them, my emotions regarding study abroad are still fairly inextricable: exited-scared-elated, all in one, and about every part of it, all at once. The weeks are ticking down. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and it’ll be scary, but it’ll also be amazing. I can’t wait.

- Emily L., DUSA blogger

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